For Discussion in Small Groups
Study of the Word/Spiritual Reading (Lectio Divina)
“Study of the Word/Spiritual Reading: the discipline of openness to encounter God through the Scriptures. In spiritual reading the text becomes a means of grace through which we encounter the God who has spoken us into being and who continues to speak to us to shape us in the image of Christ for others. In brief, the text opens us to God’s control of our lives for God’s purposes. This is a radical reversal of the dynamics of an information culture in which our possession and use of information enables us to impose our purposes on the world of our activities.” Mulholland, Robert M., “Invitation to A Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation” (p. 128).
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
- In what ways can you relate to the Pharisees whom Jesus is talking to?
- Do you feel your study of the Word helps you experience Jesus more personally or not?
- Of these 3 categories, rank from strongest to weakest in your life (all 3 are good!!):
- Studying to learn more about Jesus to grow spiritually
- Studying to teach others about Jesus to make more disciples
- Studying to experience the presence of Jesus and to offer your consent to his Spirit transforming you
- Discuss the different mindsets you have before you decide to read an interesting news article, textbook or a card from someone you deeply love.
- What are the differences? (i.e. Does the setting matter? Do you pay attention to who wrote it? Does it matter if you finish the whole thing?)
- Now read Psalm 119:97-104.
- Is this your mindset when studying the Word? If not, why?
- Are you “savoring” the Word? What does it mean to savor something?
Try Lectio Divina for yourself (it can be done in small groups as well).
- Choose a passage (6-8 verses)
- Preparation (Silencio) -- Take a moment to come fully into the present. WIth your eyes closed, let your body relax, and allow yourself to become consciously aware of God’s presence with you. Express your willingness (or your willingness to be made willing) to hear from God in these moments by using a brief prayer such as “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
- Read (Lectio) -- Listen for the word or phrase that is addressed to you. Turn to the passage and begin to read slowly, pausing between phrases and sentences. You may read silently, or you may find it helpful to read the passage out loud, allowing the words to echo and resonate, sink in and settle into your heart. As you read, listen to a word or phrase that strikes you or catches your attention. Allow a moment of silence, repeating that word or phrase softly to yourself, pondering it and savoring it as though pondering the words of a loved one. This is the word that is meant for you. Be content to listen simply and openly without judging or analyzing.
- Reflect (Meditatio) - “How is my life touched by this word?” Once you have heard the word that is meant for you, read the passage again, and listen for the way this passage connects with your life. Ask, “What is it in my life right now that needs to hear this word?” Allow several moments of silence following this reading, and explore thoughts, perceptions and sensory impressions. If the passage is a story, perhaps ask yourself “Where am I in this scene? What do I hear as I imagine myself in the story or hear these words specifically addressed to me? How do the dynamics of the story connect with my own life experience?”
- Respond (Oratio) - What is my response to God based on what I have encountered? Read the passage one more time, listening for your own deepest and truest response. In silence after the reading, allow your prayer to flow spontaneously from your heart as fully and as truly as you can. At this point you are entering into a personal dialogue with God sharing with God the feelings the text has aroused...feelings such as love, joy, sorrow, anger, repentance, desire, need, conviction, consecration. We pour out our hearts in complete honesty, especially as the text has probed aspects of our being and doing in the midst of various issues and relationships. Pay attention to any sense that God is inviting you to act or to respond in some way to the word you have heard. You may find it helpful to write your prayers or to journal at this point.
- Rest (Contemplatio) - Rest in the word of God. In this final reading you are invited to release and return to a place of rest in God. You have given your response its full expression, so now you can move into a time of waiting and resting in God’s presence, like the weaned child who leans against its mother (Psalm 131:2). This is a posture of total yieldedness and abandon to the great Lover of your soul.
- Resolve (Incarnatio) - Incarnate (live out) the Word of God. As you emerge from this place of personal encounter with God to life in the company of others, resolve to carry this word with you and to live it out in the context of your daily life and activity. As you continue to listen to the word throughout the day, you will be led deeper and deeper into its meaning, until it begins to live in you and you enflesh this word to the world in which you live. As a way of supporting your intent to live out the word you have been given, you may want to choose an image, a picture or a symbol that you can carry to remind you of it.
Adapted from Barton, Ruth Haley. “Sacred Rhythms”